A MAN who bludgeoned his friend to death with a hammer in a 'gratuitous' violent attack following a drunken row has been jailed for life.

Marty Bates carried out the 'vicious and callous” murder before carrying on like normal in the following days.

The 31-year-old let himself into the John Littlewood's Blackhall Colliery home in the early hours of July 26, 2019, before launching the fatal and sustained attack on his prone victim.

Today, he appeared at Teesside Crown Court to be sentenced for the brutal murder.

The Recorder of Middlesbrough, Judge Paul Watson QC, told Bates 'whatever he did to upset you' didn't warrant the level of violence he inflicted on him in brutal, ferocious and sustained attack'.

He added: "The frenzied nature of the attack on somebody who thought he was your friend can only be described as drink or drug fuelled."

Bates was told he would serve a minimum of 24 years in custody for murder.

The Northern Echo: John LittlewoodJohn Littlewood

Bates, of Tenth Street, Blackhall Colliery, admitted going back to the victim's house following an earlier dispute.

After sneaking in through an open rear door he climbed the stairs at launched the fatal attack on Mr Littlewood as he slept.

Richard Wright QC, prosecuting, said Bates had carried out 'gratuitous' violence when he attacked his victm in his bed when he was not in a position to defend himself until the first blow to his head.

CCTV footage shown to the jury showed Mr Wright bare-chested walking back towards his home from the direction of Third Street in the early hours of Friday, July 26.

The Northern Echo: Marty BatesMarty Bates

The court heard how Bates and Bunney had spent the day drinking with their friend, known as John D, before trouble erupted in the victim's home and he was violently attacked.

His partner, Tracey Bunney, was cleared of murder following her trial at Teesside Crown Court.

Co-accused Donna Balfour, 36, of Ninth Street, Blackhall pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice by interfering with a CCTV system at her home to attempt to delete footage.

Her partner, James Riley, 31, also of Ninth Street, Blackhall previously pleaded guilty to intending to pervert the course of justice, witness intimidation, and a further count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm in relation to a separate incident.

The court heard that the defendants had visited John Littlewood in his new home on the evening of Thursday, July 25 2019 and the 36-year-old – known as John D – was murdered at some point between that night and the following morning.

His lifeless body was found in his bed by his on-off partner on the evening of Tuesday, July 30.

The jury had heard how Bates was caught on CCTV heading towards the victim's home on the night he was believed to have been murdered.

Other footage showed the friends visiting shops before their day of drinking exploded into violence.